House GOP’s Bill Would Cut Office Budget for Members Voting by Proxy

June 22, 2020 Updated: June 22, 2020

House Republicans have been opposed to voting by proxy. Legislation has now been introduced by two House Republicans to reduce lawmakers’ annual office budgets if they do not travel to Washington, D.C., but instead vote by proxy.

Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), and member of the House Rules Committee, Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.), on June 18 introduced the Proxy Vote Windfall Prohibition Act.

Based on the new proxy voting system, lawmakers can authorize colleagues physically present in the Capitol to cast votes on their behalf.

Based on the Proxy Vote Windfall Prohibition Act, those who do not vote in person will have their Member’s Representational Allowances (MRA), which pays for supplies, staff salaries, and travel between districts to Washington, slashed.

“We’ve challenged their rule in court, but as long as it is in place, it stands to reason that if any member chooses not to travel to D.C. to vote, his or her taxpayer-funded travel allowance should be deducted by the amount that would have been spent on that trip,” Johnson said in a statement.

“If members are not going to travel for votes and instead rely on proxy voting, they should be required to give the money allocated for travel back to the Treasury. It’s only fair,” Lesko added.

The MRA pays for travel to and from Washington from the member’s district. The amount paid depends on their specific location. The travel amount is equal to the dollar equivalent of 64 (32 rounds trips) multiplied by the rate per mile times mileage between D.C. and the member’s district, plus ten percent.

Many of the Democrats who voted by proxy last month usually travel from West Coast districts.

During a House Rules Committee markup of the resolution to enact the rule changes last month, Lesko had presented a similar proposal. But it was rejected along party lines.

In response to Lesko’s proposal, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), also a member of the Rules Committee, suggested that such a proposal should also be applied to lawmakers who sleep in their offices to save on real estate costs while in Washington.

“What I recommend to the is that she combine with those people who are saying that members who sleep in their offices should have to return part of their salary to the United States government. Because part of their salary undoubtedly is to cover the costs of their living in Washington when they’re here,” Raskin said.

Led by Rules Committee Chair Rep. Tim McGovern (D-Mass.), the House Democrats adopted rules changes in May that allow lawmakers to cast votes and conduct committee meetings remotely during the pandemic.

Close to 70 Democrats voted by proxy on May 27, while Republicans have mostly opposed proxy voting and have insisted on voting in person.

The House currently allows proxy voting for 45 days a time during the pandemic, unless Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) extends the rule change further.